Reaching the age of 21 is the official milestone for becoming an adult in American culture. It is eagerly awaited for one particular privilege: the right to purchase and drink alcohol. Twenty-first birthdays can be enjoyed with or without alcohol, and certainly do not have to involve getting dangerously intoxicated.
Your first legal drink is one you'll want to remember, so why have your friends treat you to a "plain old" martini or a scotch on the rocks? Going to a somewhat upscale bar, in addition to providing inventive, quality drinks, good food and a nice atmosphere, has the helpful side effect of eating through your budget a little more quickly, which may help you avoid getting overly intoxicated.
Use your friends' knowledge to help initiate you to your town's bar scene. Invite a small group of close friends out on the town and have each pick a bar to stay in for one drink. You'll have the opportunity to change scene a few times throughout the night and enjoy a variety of beverages. Although your friends can help you order, remember that if you feel intoxicated, it's OK to say no, even on your 21st birthday.
You may want to enjoy your 21st from the comfort of your own living room or porch. If you celebrate at home, you might be able to invite more friends and have a somewhat more relaxed time. Recommend a BYOB--with enough for the birthday boy or girl, of course--or prepare a nice cocktail, like a Pimm's Cup or Sidecar for your friends (see Resources below).
High School Friends
Your 21st is a great time to catch up with friends you might not have kept in touch with much since high school. You could travel home and celebrate with them there, or invite your closest friends from high school to visit you where you're living now.
It is, of course, perfectly possible to pass your 21st birthday without drinking. Set aside the money you might have otherwise spent at the bar and ask your friends out for a nice dinner at your favourite restaurant, sans cocktails. You could also try a new activity--what better way to mark your sober 21st than with a natural rush like bungee jumping?
Although it's important to have fun on your big day, remember that binge drinking, such as the popular activity of doing 21 shots, can lead to alcohol poisoning; the Mayo Clinic recommends calling 911 immediately in a suspected case of alcohol poisoning. It is also not safe or legal to drive under the influence of alcohol, so make sure someone in your group is sober and is willing to walk or drive other people safely home.